Vocational Training and Rehabilitation
When you've suffered from a work-related injury and are healing, you'll want to get back to work as soon as possible. However, certain injuries are severe enough to leave you with lifelong disabilities and unable to return to your pre-injury career.
Following a work-related injury in Massachusetts, you might be entitled to vocational rehabilitation. Vocational rehabilitation services help you to return to work in the same or a different role within the same company, or with a new employer and a different style of work. Vocational rehabilitation identifies your skillset and the work duties that are most appropriate for you right now.Vocational Rehabilitation in Massachusetts
If your work-related injury results in a permanent, lifelong inability to perform the basic functions of your job, you may be eligible for Vocational Rehabilitation, also known as job retraining. This can include work placement programs as well as retraining or education for new jobs, both of which are protected by the employer's workers' compensation insurer.
The Massachusetts Workers' Compensation Law mandates all businesses in the state to carry workers' compensation insurance to cover the expenses of employee work-related accidents. When a worker is hurt or becomes sick at work, the employer's insurer may offer those benefits. For example, some of these benefits can include, but are not limited to:
- Fair and necessary care and treatment coverage to treat the accident or illness;
- Lost income depending on the condition's debilitating nature;
- Survivor or dependent death benefits if the worker died as a direct result of the work-related injury; and
- In some instances, access to vocational rehabilitation.
Most employees who are eligible for vocational services have suffered from work-related injuries and as a result, have permanent functional disabilities. If a worker's compensation claimant is unable to return to their former employment, vocational rehabilitation (VR) will help them find a new job or profession that best suits their needs. The Department of Industrial Accidents (DIA) Office of Education and Vocational Rehabilitation (OEVR) encourages but does not offer these services to claimants. It is also in charge of evaluating a submission for vocational rehabilitation services.
An insurer and a claimant may disagree on the requirement of VR services. The claimant may apply to the OEVR to have these facilities provided by the insurer. He or she must complete and send a referral form to the OEVR, along with copies of current medical records and, if necessary, a lump sum payment agreement. The OEVR will evaluate the claimant's medical, employment, and educational records to decide whether or not he or she is qualified for VR services. If the OEVR agrees that VR services are feasible and appropriate, an insurer should provide and cover the costs associated with them.
VR programs will last up to 140 weeks. A VR program does not always imply that the claimant will be retrained in a different field. The intention is to return the claimant to his or her former job. If this is not feasible, the target should be to:
- Change the job so that the claimant can return to the same employer;
- Find a new job with the same employer;
- Find another job with a different employer; or
- Retrain if none of the above choices are available.
In certain cases, the OEVR can enable the insurer to pay for an artificial limb or other mechanical devices if it will assist the claimant in returning to work.
A claimant is required to attend the VR program as well as any meetings with the OEVR. Otherwise, the insurer can reduce a worker's weekly wage benefits by up to 15% if he or she refuses VR services. A claimant and insurer cannot agree to a lump sum payment if the claimant was eligible for but did not complete a VR program until they have the OEVR's express written consent. If a lump sum settlement is already in place, the cost of VR services cannot be included. After a lump sum settlement is accepted, a worker can qualify for VR services for up to two years.Is Vocational Rehabilitation Mandatory?
If you do not turn up for your scheduled mandatory OEVR meeting, your weekly workers' compensation benefits can be terminated before you do.
If the OEVR determines that you are eligible for vocational rehabilitation services but do not engage in a vocational rehabilitation program, your weekly compensation payments may be decreased by around 15%.Claim Settlement and Eligibility
If the injury occurred after 1986, you have a two-year period from the date of your lump-sum settlement to request vocational rehabilitation. The suitability is decided by the OEVR.Does VR Guarantee a Job?
No one can offer guarantees. The Regional Rehabilitation Review Officer assigned to your case will oversee progress in your active job search efforts.Who Pays for Vocational Rehabilitation Services?
After the OEVR determines that you are eligible, the workers' compensation insurance carrier is obligated to provide you with vocational rehabilitation services. In some conditions, the Workers' Compensation Trust Fund (WCTF) can also be used - subject to the Director of OEVR's approval and the availability of funds.What isn’t Included in the Insurer Settlement?
Vocational Rehabilitation Services (vocational therapy and testing, job searching, job placement, job adjustment, and so on) cannot be included in your lump-sum settlement. According to the Workers' Compensation Law, if you wish to settle your case at some point, as per MGL c. 152, para. 48 (2): "said agreement [to settle] shall not redeem liability for the payment of medical benefits or vocational benefits concerning [your] injury".Consult With Our Massachusetts Vocational Rehabilitation Attorney
Vocational rehabilitation assists disabled or injured workers in developing the skills required to return to their employment or join a new line of work. Serious and catastrophic injuries may have long-term or lifelong implications for a Massachusetts worker.
If you or somebody you know was hurt or sickened on the job and is unable to return to work due to an illness or impairment, our highly qualified Massachusetts work injury lawyer at the Bellotti Law Group P.C. will advise you on what forms of vocational rehabilitation you might be eligible for.